U.S. Government announces Arctic Refuge lease sale in reckless push for drilling

Whitehorse, YT – The U.S. Government announced today that it will hold a lease sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on January 6th. The Arctic Refuge is sacred land to the Gwich’in, and the birthplace of the Porcupine caribou herd, which is a lifeblood for Gwich’in communities across the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska.

“This leasing process has lost all legitimacy,” said Malkolm Boothroyd, Campaigns Coordinator with the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS Yukon). “Time and again the U.S. Government has downplayed the environmental and cultural consequences of drilling in the Arctic Refuge, and stymied the public’s ability to voice their concerns. Auctioning off the Arctic Refuge to oil companies in this Administration’s final weeks in office is the latest move in a disturbing trend.”

Oil companies that pursue leases in the Arctic Refuge face mounting financial, political and legal uncertainty. A growing list of banks including RBC, BMO, TD, CIBC and the six largest banks in the United States have all pledged never to fund Arctic Refuge drilling, meaning oil companies may struggle to finance their operations. Meanwhile president-elect Biden is on the record as being “totally opposed” to Arctic Refuge drilling, and the new administration could take action on its first day in office to put the brakes on the current leasing program. At the same time, four unresolved lawsuits have challenged the legality of the Arctic Refuge leasing program, one of which was launched by groups including the Gwich’in Steering Committee and CPAWS Yukon.

“The move to hold a lease sale is further evidence that we can’t take anything for granted, even though the current administration’s days are numbered,” said Chris Rider, Executive Director at CPAWS Yukon. “Fortunately there’s still a lot that people can do to make sure the Arctic Refuge is protected. We’re echoing calls from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation for Canadians to phone Prime Minister Trudeau and demand that he voices his support for the Gwich’in and protecting the Arctic Refuge.”

Media Contacts

Adil Darvesh
Communications Coordinator, CPAWS Yukon
867-393-8080 x9

Elizabeth Staples
Caribou Coordinator, Vuntut Gwitchin Government
(778) 668-0811